September 20th, 2011
05:58 PM GMT
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Burberry is a quintessentially British brand. No label has reinvented the trench coat more times and with such success.

As chief creative officer Christopher Bailey presented his women’s wear collection for Spring/Summer 2012, famous faces were out in force, braving London’s fall weather.

"I think Christopher really captures the British sense of style. I love the trenchcoats; I have many of them in different colours and they all look great on me," says model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley the face of Burberry Body, the firm’s latest fragrance.

"To work for a brand that is British and makes great clothes is just the cherry on the cake for me," she adds.

Burberry may be ‘Made in England’ but its chief executive is looking beyond UK borders for growth.

Since joining the company in 2006, Angela Ahrendts has turned a once beige brand into a billion-dollar business, tripling annual revenues and doubling pretax profits.

As of March of this year Burberry had a cash position of $460 million, meaning plenty of money to spend on new shops. In fact, Burberry plans to add 13% more retail space in the next two years.

“The emerging markets are very important for our strategy,’’ says 51 year-old Ahrendts, looking impossibly fashionable in a black wool trench and towering high-heeled sandals.

‘’We’ve been investing in them for a couple of years. We’ve just opened our sixth store in India, and we’ve got a great team on the ground there. We’ve opened our own office in Brazil. We’ve got the third store opening very shortly and a wonderful five-year business plan for that market.”

But will the eurozone crisis damp demand? Europe, after all, accounts for a third of Burberry’s top line.

“If you look at any of the analyst estimates that are out right now, they’re estimating that the luxury sector will continue to grow double digits the next couple of years. And I think what happens is, in luxury, over 60% of the business is done when people are travelling….of course there’s a great local clientele but you also have a heavy influx of tourism coming into the big flagship markets.”

Despite fears of an impending double dip for the world economy, the stars gracing Burberry’s front row at London Fashion Week were brave-faced, as were the models sashaying down the runway in vertiginous platform sandals.

Fans of its clothes say what makes Burberry so popular is the ability to combine high fashion with wearable designs. Highlights from the label’s latest collection include two-tone totes and bright patterned double breasted mackintoshes, much to the delight of actress Gemma Arterton.

‘’When I go to a fashion show I’m always thinking ‘can I wear that?’ Today I’ve seen plenty of stuff I like, from pencil skirts to the handbags,” she says.

But you don’t have to be a celebrity to keep up to date with the latest London Fashion Week trends - thanks to the growing popularity of social media.

Burberry streamed its show live on the web and hosted a twitter feed, posting pictures of the models and their outfits 11 seconds before they hit the catwalk. Those lucky enough to afford thousand-dollar coats could buy the new outfits immediately on line via a special Burberry Facebook page.  

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, praised Burberry’s chief designer for his innovation. ‘’Christopher has taken this classic British brand and reinvented it. Every season he surprises us with a new twist. It’s great what he’s doing with technology,’’ she says.

As for Bailey himself, now marking a decade with the firm, he describes Burberry as “a beautiful diamond.” It has, he says, “such heritage, so many facets.”

Which is why,155 years on, this luxury goods maker continues to shine.

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